Last weekend I completed my first marathon. It was an amazing experience full of highs and lows, fun and pain, an experience that really taught me a lot. More on the actual marathon in another post. For this post, I want to talk about the time before the marathon, about the five months of training that led up to the marathon, and how that impacted our family.
It is not uncommon to ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” during a 20 mile training run with the humidity making you sweat like a faucet. “Do I really want to continue?” can run through your mind at 5 o’clock in the morning where you can see steam rising from your arms because it is so cold. There were many of those types of questions during the marathon training period which started in early June (thus running the course of the Summer) through early November. I can’t say I found the perfect answer to them but the main theme that kept me going was devotion.
I had to remind myself that I was devoted to my goal. I had shared my goal with my family so they too knew I was devoted to my goal. If I stopped, I would let myself down as well as let them down and more importantly, be a bad example to the boys. That was enough to drive me through the cold early morning runs and push through the humid Summer temps to keep going. Even though it was a personal accomplishment that I was seeking, I wanted to also show my boys that if you put your mind to it, you can do most anything, even run a marathon.
But perhaps the toughest thought that I had to battle was one that came later in the training. It was the thought that all of this time devoted to training, all of the hours put into running and spending Saturday mornings with the training team, that all of this time was taking me away from my family, from time I could be spending with the boys doing whatever (granted, Saturday mornings would probably not be filled with a lot of bonding activity, but you never know). These thoughts of doubt and wondering if I was taking too much time away from our family were almost enough to make me quit.
Several things came to mind to counter these thoughts. One, and the main one that kept me running on the days that were physically draining, as well as mentally taxing, is that this was a short period of my life. Five months. Not too bad, just five months of training. And even with that, training wasn’t all the time. I was able to do early mornings while the boys were still asleep and I didn’t miss too many events with the Saturday longer runs. Add to that the support I got from the boys. They understood when I told them I was heading out to run that I’d be back in an hour or two and we would still have time to devote to doing things together. I needed to know they understood and supported my efforts.
So in the end the benefit seemed to outweigh the fear of being a devoid Dad. The boys seemed thoroughly impressed with my accomplishment and I found myself even more focused on quality time with them for those times when I wasn’t training. It certainly left us in a position to recognize and capitalize on that time together. Even though the training didn’t limit our together time too much, it brought to light what those missed opportunities feel like.
I think overall the marathon experience is one that will help me and our family. I have often encouraged parents to do what helps you- you have to make sure you are healthy (mentally and physically) to portray a healthy environment for your family – a little “Me time” to recharge is well worth it. I have been a model for the boys, showing them that devotion and hard work is something that pays off in the end. And if the outcome is that we learn to appreciate our time together even more, then there is a double benefit to all that work. Even though they only give you one medal at the end of the race, the time with the boys is a reward that I can enjoy day after day.